By Susan Spencer
Every time someone sees a health care provider, fills a prescription, or interacts with a government agency it leaves a data trail. Separately, these pieces of information might not tell a lot. But together, they give insight into complex issues.
A University of Massachusetts Medical School researcher gave a look at what linked databases show about what’s driving the opioid crisis in Massachusetts and locally, at the inaugural Greater Worcester Public Health Grand Rounds, held Thursday afternoon in the Levi Lincoln Chamber at City Hall.
The in-depth analysis, using data from 2011 to 2015, highlighted the increasing impact of illicit fentanyl on opioid-related overdose deaths, as well as populations particularly at risk for fatal overdose, including those who had been in jail or prison, experienced homelessness, or had serious mental illness.
Thomas Land, an associate professor in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, presented the public health grand rounds, coordinated by the UMass Worcester Research Prevention Center and the Worcester Division of Public Health. He previously served as director of the Office of Health Information Policy and Informatics for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and was instrumental in creating a data-linking plan to better understand opioid overdoses statewide.
State legislation enacted in August 2015, known as Chapter 55, allowed for the first time the linking of 22 data sets to answer questions about opioid use and the epidemic spreading across the state. Data sources include public health, medical and hospital claims, MassHealth (Medicaid), mental health, public safety, jails and prisons, other law enforcement, housing, veterans’ services, other service indicator flags, and community data such as town and ZIP code.